There is a common misconception that creativity is a gift – that it’s something you either have or you don’t. However, this is simply not true.
Creativity is something you have to work at. It’s like a muscle you have to train.
So how to be innovative and creative at work?
What Drives Creativity?
Before we look at some specific ideas that will set your creative juices flowing, let’s think briefly in general terms about what it is that drives creativity.
What is it that allows Steve Jobs and Elon Musks to innovate so consistently?
Creativity is about trying to see things from a different angle; it’s about trying to find a new perspective. It’s about trying to step outside of the mental constraints we impose upon ourselves to attempt to look at a problem in a new light.
Being creative is trying to understand what limitations we are unwittingly conforming to, and then breaking free of them. It is allowing yourself to do things, experience things or consider things in unfamiliar ways.
This is the essence of creativity and innovation, and shaking things up to free yourself from accepted ways of thinking is at the heart of being creative.
Above all, you need to fight against routine, mindlessness and apathy, the mortal enemies of the creative process.
13 Ways to Be Innovative and Creative at Work
1. Go Outside
If you are suffering from a creative block, one of the simplest and most powerful ways to remedy it is to leave the office and go for a walk. If your brain becomes stuck in a rut of routine and repetition, just seeing some unfamiliar sights can help you break free of your self-imposed mental prison.
When you do this, make sure you switch off your phone and give your mind space and time to relax. If you spend your walk staring at your screen, you might as well stay in the office – the idea is to let your mind wander. When you arrive back at the office, you will feel creatively invigorated.
You can make this a habit if your work allows it – but don’t turn it into a new routine. Make sure you vary your walks, pay attention to and take note of things you see. You will quickly realize how this can help fire up your creativity.
2. Don’t Fill “Dead Time” with Pointless Telephone Use
“Dead time” is moments like when you are on a train or having lunch alone. Your mind is inactive, and you are just waiting for the time to pass. Nowadays, many people have developed a reflex during moments like this to reach for their smartphone.
Some people mechanically check emails or messages, some open Twitter or Facebook, and others have a mindless game or two to occupy the time.
However, if you spend every spare minute of the day feeding information into your brain – often useless information – you are crowding out moments when your brain can be rearranging thoughts and brewing up new ideas.
You need to give your mind downtime to be creative and innovative. If you fill dead time by reading the news on your telephone or digging turnips from a virtual garden, you are effectively filling some of your brain’s most creative moments with white noise.
Celebrate dead time and let your brain wander.
3. Start Your Day with Creativity
Another bad habit so many of us now have that kills creativity is to fall into the rut of routine from the moment we open our eyes.
When the alarm sounds in the morning, before we even crawl out of bed, we reach for our telephone. For most of us, our telephone probably is our alarm. Before we know it, we’re checking our notifications and our mind is already fixed into the worn groove of our hyper-connected life.
Instead of this, why not start by giving your brain something different and stimulating when you first wake up? Leave your phone switched off for the first hour of the day and give your brain something else to do instead.
Listen to music, read a book, meditate, do yoga, make some unique drink or anything else you can think of. Give your mind some space to breathe and expand first thing in the morning – and then see how much more creative you become later in the day.
4. Set Aside “Creative Time” out of the Office
The routine of turning up for work and doing the same old thing in the same old place is deadly poison to creativity. You end up training your brain to think about things in the same way, and the day-to-day grind drives fills the space required for original thoughts.
An answer to this is to set aside “creative time” outside of the office. Allow yourself 45 minutes once or twice a week to sit in a coffee shop and just think.
You should find a place that is comfortable and quiet, somewhere you can simply sit and be alone with your drink. You shouldn’t have any particular goals and you certainly shouldn’t take work with you – but at the same time, this is “work time” and you should focus your thoughts on work.
The idea is to allow your mind to relax and simply wander. You will probably come up with some surprising new insights or ideas.
In keeping with the theme of mixing things up as much as possible, it might help you to change the location for this activity rather than going to the same place each time – but some people might also find the ritual of going to a familiar place helps put them in a calm and creative frame of mind.
5. Surround Yourself with Inspiration
Even if you can’t go for a walk, spend reflective time in a coffee shop or rearrange your office furniture, you can still surround yourself with inspirational material that will help keep your mind on its toes.
Always be on the lookout for new and stimulating material and adorn your workspace with whatever you find. It could be newspaper headlines, rousing quotations, objects, photos or anything else – it’s up to you.
Make sure you keep replacing everything too – it will keep your space fresh, and this, in turn, will keep your mind fresh. Above all, don’t let your environment become dull and boring or your mind will stagnate.